In our busy, busy lives, we may not always have time to sit down and read a book.
That’s okay! If you don’t have the time to read a book, you can always read a short story (or 12), instead.
Very short stories are great for learning English. They’re not only quick to read but also interesting and often quite funny. Many of them are loved by children as well as adults.
What I have here today is a list of very short English stories that will only take a few minutes of your time to read. I’ve included some old classic stories, bedtime stories and stories with morals (lessons) that have been passed down for generations.
For each story, I’ve highlighted one or two language structures or vocabulary words that might be of interest to you.
But before we get to that list, let’s look at how very short English stories can help you learn English faster, and what language structures you should be paying attention to when you read them.
Ready? Let’s get started.
How to Include Very Short English Stories in Your Learning Routine
Reading a book, especially if it’s in a foreign language, can take lots of time and effort—things you may not have a lot of if you’re working, going to college or have a family.
Sometimes, all you have is maybe 10-15 minutes between classes or while waiting for a friend. That may not be enough time to read a chapter in a book but it’s definitely enough time for a very short English story of 600 words or fewer.
Yes, you can fit a very short English story into those few minutes because they’re so quick to read. Just a few lines or paragraphs and you’d have learned a new word or a new grammar structure you didn’t know before. How cool is that?
When reading very short English stories, there are a few things you should look out for:
- Vocabulary and word usage: No matter how short a story is, it always presents opportunities for learning new vocabulary. So look for any new and interesting words you may or may not have seen before and notice how and where they’re used in a sentence.
- Grammar: Short English stories may seem simple but there’s much you can learn even from a few short paragraphs. You’ll be surprised at what they can teach you about how grammar works in different situations, how tenses are used and how sentences are constructed.
- Idioms and expressions: Do you see any familiar idioms or expressions? Do any look completely new to you? Look up useful new phrases and words meanings and add them to your list for practice. You do have a list, I hope!
12 Very Short English Stories You Can Read in Less Than 12 Minutes
“Sleepy Teacher” (85 words)
This is a funny tale about a teacher who likes to take short naps every day. Read the story to find out what his students did to him.
Nap — A short sleep taken during the day.
On hot afternoons or after a heavy lunch, you may feel sleepy and want to take a nap. Has this ever happened to you?
“The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf” (111 words)
This is a popular story that teaches children a lesson about what happens when they lie. The moral here is that no one would believe a liar (someone who lies) even when they told the truth.
To pay any heed to his cries — To pay any attention to his cries for help.
“The Two Travelers” (Video)
This is the story of two travelers who found an axe as they were walking through a forest. Watch and read this story to find out what happened next.
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FluentU has a variety of engaging videos like popular talk shows, music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos because it has interactive captions. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word “brought,” you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
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To come upon — This is a phrasal verb that means to see or find something by chance.
“The Hare and the Tortoise” (135 words)
This is another favorite for children but it can also be a good reminder for many adults. The moral of this story is that if you keep working toward your goal, you will succeed even if the odds are against you.
To assent to the proposal — To agree to the suggestion.
This expression may be used in formal English to sound more professional.
“The Ant and the Grasshopper” (144 words)
This is another great story for both children and adults. The moral is that those who save up during the good times will get to enjoy the benefits when times are bad.
An ear of corn — Corn that includes its seeds and outer leaf structure.
Here’s another collective noun for corn:
A field of corn — A field or land where corn is grown.
“Emily’s Secret” (187 words)
This is a modern-day story about a little girl with a big secret she can’t tell anyone about. It’s written in very basic English with simple vocabulary and short sentences.
Do you know the word used to describe someone who can’t read and write?
If you answered illiterate, you’re right!
Illiterate — This adjective refers to a person who can’t read or write.
“Love Is in the Air” (277 words)
This modern story is written in simple English and talks about a young lady who dreads (thinks about with anxiety or fear) going to her family’s annual reunion barbecue.
Vegetarian — Someone who doesn’t eat meat.
Have you heard the word vegan?
Vegan — A vegan is also a vegetarian but a stricter one.
So what’s the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan?
A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat but may be fine with eggs or dairy products such as milk and cheese.
A vegan, however, doesn’t eat meat, eggs or dairy products, or use products that come from animals such as leather.
“Likable” (333 words)
In this very short English story, the writer describes how likable (easy to like) the character is. The really interesting part is the many questions the writer asks about her personality. Although the story is short, there are quite a few difficult words to understand here, so have a dictionary handy for this one.
Why is the word “could” used in this sentence?
“These could be strangers, these could be people she loved…”
“Could” is a modal verb that shows possibility. The writer is referring to a group of people but is unsure who they are. Here, the use of the word “could” shows that it’s possible they could be strangers, or family and friends.
“Miracles” (369 words)
This is a beautiful modern-day story that describes a group of children gathering around their father to watch little spiders hatch out of their eggs. But the story gets a different meaning as it nears the end. What do you think happened?
To put our noses to it (the jar) — To come up so close to the jar that your nose is almost touching it.
“Royal Servant” (395 words)
In this story, an old man convinces an African king to dig some wells in his village when their water runs dry. Read the story to find out the clever (smart) words he uses to get the king to do as he asks.
Do you know what this expression means?
The blood froze in the veins of the people… — This has nothing to do with blood or veins. It simply means the people were very fearful.
This is one of my favorites: an Indian story that was originally written in Sanskrit (an ancient language). It teaches us that what we cannot do alone may be possible if we work as a team.
Let’s look at the plural word “woods” and how it’s different from the singular.
Woods — A small forest or piece of land covered with trees. There’s no singular form for this word. It’s always used in plural form.
We will fly it to the city, past these woods.
Wood — The trunk or branch of a tree that’s prepared for making a fire or furniture. There’s no plural form for this word. It’s always used in the singular form.
My new dining table is made of wood.
“The Geese and the Fig Tree” (600 words)
Here’s another Indian story with a moral. This one tells us why we’d be wise to consider the advice of someone who’s older and more experienced than us.
Not all plural nouns are formed by adding an -s or -es at the end. Here’s a plural noun that’s formed by replacing the double vowels -oo- in the singular with -ee-:
Goose (singular) / Geese (plural)
Can you think of any other plural nouns that are formed in the same way?
Tooth / Teeth, Foot / Feet. Well done!
I hope you found these very short English stories interesting and fun to read. More importantly, I hope you’ve learned something from each of them and improved your English reading skills.
For additional speaking practice, try reading these stories out loud or telling them to someone in your own words. Until next time, keep on practicing!
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